Se7en (1995) Review

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As Serial Killer challenges go, Gluttony and Sloth are not really that hard to catch.

Seven (1995): 9 out of 10: David Fincher’s premiere film as a feature film director after years of making music videos is a masterpiece. Meticulously detailed and layered to the point that multiple viewings give even greater pleasures and currently occupying a spot in the IMDB top 20 movies of all time. Hold on, someone has their hand up in the back… what’s that? Alien 3?… there was no Alien 3. There were only two Alien movies: Alien and Aliens. If you recall, at the end of Aliens, Ripley, Bishop, Newt and Hicks, all escape and live happily ever after. So obviously Seven is David Fincher’s first film. Understood?

The Good

The Good: Seven is truly a finely crafted film and, like an onion, has many layers. To dissect the onion will simply destroy it and leave everyone crying, so to preserve what I can of writer Andrew Kevin Walker’s mystery, let me tell you my pet theory.

I think the movie takes place in purgatory. It is truly a dark, dirty, miserable place (even for the mid-nineties). Every location seems flawed, never to be properly clean nor lit. The characters are also flawed. Brad Pitt is quick to violence and quite the obnoxious hot head in some scenes. Morgan Freeman seems to play the same character he has been playing for the last twenty -five years. But there is hidden depth in this one. Some regrets and some cold calculations. He is seven days from retirement, but this being purgatory, the genuine fear is not he will be killed like every single other movie cop seven days from retirement in the entire history of movies. No, the actual fear is he can never retire at all and one day will simply blend into another.

Both leads do a bang-up job with characters that seem like they fit exactly in their wheelhouse but as I note above, with Freeman have a little more depth than it appears at first glance. Seven has a deliberate pace without ever being boring. While the cycle of downtime and investigation seems fairly well set, there are a couple of surprises that topple the apple cart and keeps the audience on its toes. The calm, deliberate pace, of course, makes the surprises all that more effective.

Our bad guy, like many of the surprises in the film, is well known after so many years. The movie does a great job hiding him. (Though his killing a drug dealer because he was also a pederast gets a second glance nowadays, considering.) The big bad’s plan involving the seven deadly sins (gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust, and envy for those keeping score at home) may seem overdone to modern audiences, but it was fresh stuff when this movie came out. Subsequent movies like the Saw series crib heavily from Seven.

The Mediocre

The Mediocre: There is nothing really bad about Seven. There are some things, however, that are mediocre. I like Gwyneth Paltrow but she never makes an impression. She is just kind of there, saying her lines. There is no emotional connection to the audience. In other words, she is Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.

A couple of sins get the short shrift in the movie. Pride, in particular, seems truncated and sloth’s victim seems… well, unslothful. (I mean, the guy is both a scummy drug dealer and a pederast? He is multitasking over here. Why not get someone who marathons those judge shows on daytime television and then orders takeout.)

The Ugly

The Ugly: Having a number in the middle of your name was stupid in 1995. It is stupid in 2019 and there has never been a time outside of those dates where it wasn’t stupid. As Weird Al Yankovic says in that Holiday classic Word Crimes.

You should never
Write words using numbers
Unless you’re seven
Or your name is Prince

Hold on a second, maybe he meant the movie Se7en in those lyrics instead of the age seven as we all assumed all along… OMG, my mind is blown.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: If you have never seen Seven go check it out. If you haven’t seen it since the nineties, I also recommend giving it another spin. It holds up really well and is better than you remember it.

Screenshots

Another rainy day in Gotham.
I love the set dressing with these Warhol style soup cans.
In the nineties, this was considered obese. Nowadays it is the average middle-aged American.
Mondays… am I right.
Nice detail on the newspaper headlines. Seven is filled with a lot of blink and miss it details.
Speaking of Gotham, I am getting a serious Batman villain kidnaps Batgirl vibe from the photo on the desk.
Gwyneth Paltrow certainly is refreshing cute in such a downer film.
I have seen Seven a few times now and have to confess I still don’t understand why Gwyneth Paltrow and Morgan Freeman are meeting in this diner. Not a deal breaker. The movie is so finely tuned I actually am working under the assumption that I am the stupid one in this equation. Not a bad assumption in many scenarios, now I think about it.
It is nice of Seven to help those of us playing along at home.
Somewhere there is a prop master with good penmanship and a very sore wrist.
Seven is a beautifully shot film.
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